The Scriptures Our Counselors
by Charles Bridges
"Thy testimonies are my delight, and my counselors." (Psalm 119:24)
What could we want more in a time of difficulty than comfort and direction? David had both these blessings. As the fruit of his "meditation in the Lord's statutes," in his distress they were his "delight;" in his perplexity they were his "counselors." He would not have exchanged his delight for the best joys of earth (Verses 14, 97, 103, 127; with Psalm 4:7). And so wisely did his counselors direct his course, that, though "princes sat and spake against him," they "could find none occasion nor fault" (1 Sam. 18:14; Psalm 101:2; with Dan. 6:4, 5). The testimonies of God were truly "the men of his counsel" (Margin). He guided his own conduct by the rules laid before him in the book of God, as if he were having recourse to the most experienced counselors, or rather as if the prophets of his God were giving the word from his mouth (Comp. 2 Sam. 7:4, 5; also 16:23). Thus the subject as well as the sovereign, had his counsel. One side was Saul and his counselors (Verse 23)on the other side, David and the testimonies of his God. Which, think we, was better furnished with that "wisdom which is profitable to direct?" Subsequently as a king, David was constrained to make "the testimonies of his God his counselors" (Deut. 17:18-20); and, probably, to his constant regard to their voice he owed much of his earthly prosperity.
In such a dark world as this, beset with temptation at every turn, we preeminently need sound and wise counsel. But all of us carry an evil counselor within us, and it is our folly to listen to his voice (Prov. 28:26). God has given us his word as a sure counselor, and "he that hearkeneth to its counsel is wise" (Prov. 12:15).
Now, do we value the privilege of this heavenly counsel? Every improvement must increase our delight in it; a heartless interest shuts out this blessing. But those who make the word their delight will always find it their counselor. Yet a mere cursory reading will never realize to us its holy delight or counsel. It must be brought home to our own experience, and consulted on those trivial occasions of every day, when, unconscious of our need of Divine direction, we are too often inclined to lean to our own counsel. The Christian is a man of faith, every step of his way. And this habitual use and daily familiarity with the testimonies of God will show him the pillar and the cloud (Num. 9:15-23), in all the dark turns of his heavenly road. The word will be to him as the "Urim and Thummim" (Num. 27:21)an infallible counselor.
Sometimes, however, perplexity arises from the conflict, not between conscience and sinful indulgence (in which case Christian sincerity would always determine the path), but between duty and duty. When, however, acknowledged obligations seem to interfere with each other, the counsel of the word will mark their relative importance, connexion, and dependence: the present path in providence: the guidance which has been vouchsafed to the Lord's people in similar emergencies; and the light which the daily life of our Great Exemplar exhibits before us. The great concern, however, is to cultivate the habit of mind, which falls in most naturally with the counsel of the word. "Walking in the fear of the Lord" (see Psalm 25:12, 14), in a simple spirit of dependence (Psalm 25:4, 5, 9; 143:8), and torn away from the idolatry of taking counsel from our own hearts, we cannot materially err; because there is here a suitableness between the disposition and the promisea watchfulness against the impetuous bias of the flesh; a paramount regard to the glory of God, and meek submission to his gracious appointment. If the counsel, however, should not prove infallible, the fault is not in the word, but in the indistinctness of our own perception. We want not a clearer rule, or a surer guide, but a more single eye . And if, after all, it may not mark every precise act of duty (for to do this, even the world itself "could not contain the books that should be written"), yet it determines the standard to which the most minute acting of the mind should be brought (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17); and the disposition, which will reflect the light of the will of God upon our path (Matt. 6:22, 23).
But let it be remembered, that any want of sincerity in the heart (1 Sam. 28:6; Ezek. 14:2-4)any allowance of self-dependence (Prov. 3:5, 6), will always close the avenues of this Divine light and counsel. We are often unconsciously "walking in the light of our own fire, and in the sparks that we have kindled" (Isa. 50:11). Perhaps we sought, as we conceived, the guidance of the Lord's counsel, and supposed that we were walking in it. But, in the act of seeking, and as the preparation for seeking, did we subject our motives and inclinations to a strict, cautious, self-suspecting scrutiny? Was the heart schooled to the discipline of the cross? Was "every thought brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ?" (2 Cor. 10:5). Or was not our heart possessed with the object, before counsel was sought at the mouth of God? (Jer. 42) Oh! how careful should we be to walk warily in those uncertain marks of heavenly counsel, that fall in with the bias of our own inclination! How many false steps in the record of past experience may be traced to the counsel of our own hearts, sought and followed to the neglect and counsel of God (Josh. 9:14; Isa. 30:1-3); while no circumstance of perplexity can befall us in the spirit of humility, simplicity, and sanctity, when the counsel of the Lord will fail!
An undue dependence upon human counsel (Isa. 2:22), whether of the living or the dead greatly hinders the full influence of the counsel of the word. However valuable such counsel may be, and however closely it may agree with the word, we must not forget, that it is not the wordthat it is fallible, and therefore must never be resorted to in the first place, or followed with that full reliance, which we are warranted to place on the revelation of God. On the other hand, what is it to have God's word as our "Counselor"? Is it not to have himself"the only wise God"? When our Bibles, in seasons of difficulty, are searched in a humble, prayerful, teachable spirit, we are as much depending upon the Lord himself for counsel, as if we were listening to an immediate revelation from heaven. We want not a new revelation, or a sensible voice from above, for every fresh emergency. It is enough, that our Father has given us this blessed "word as a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path" (Verse 105; Comp. Prov. 6:23).
Let me then inquireWhat is the counsel of God, that speaks directly to myself? If I am an unawakened sinner, it warns me to turn from sin (Prov. 1:24-31; Ezek. 33:11); it invites me to the Savior (Isa. 55:1; John 7:37); it directs me to wait upon God (Hos. 12:6). If I am a professor, slumbering in the form of godliness, it shows me my real condition (Rev. 3:17); it instructs me in the all-sufficiency of Christ (Rev. 3:18), and cautions me of the danger of hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). If through grace I am made a child of God, still do I need my Father's counsel to recover me from perpetual backsliding (Jer. 3:12, 13), to excite me to increased watchfulness (1 Thess. 5:6; Rev. 3:2), and to strengthen my confidence in the fullness of his grace (Isa. 26:4), and the faithfulness of his love (Heb. 12:5, 6). Ever shall I have reason for the grateful acknowledgment"I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel" (Psa. 16:7). And every step of my way would I advance, glorifying my God and Father by confiding in his counsel unto the end: "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory" (Psa 73:24).
Taken from Psalm 119 An Exposition
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